I’ve been asked to write etiquette guidelines for photography teams shooting concerts or festivals in the past, and I thought I’d share them here.
You have before you a great opportunity to build your concert/lifestyle portfolio in a beautiful setting, often with excellent light. You’re also one of many photographers in a small space, all with the same goal: to capture the best images possible to represent yourselves and the festival.
To make that happen, egos should be checked at the door so we recognize that we are part of a team, where the actions of one, positive or negative, represent us all. Here are some of the basics:
Respect: Number one. Respect the audience, the artists, the organizers, the crew and volunteers, security, and your fellow photographers. Use your common sense and remember the golden rule.
Audience sightlines: At the front of the stage, please be cognizant of the audience, first and foremost. They paid cash money to see these artists and don’t need to see it through your LCD screen or the back of your head. If you need to get right in someone’s grill to get a shot: a) be polite, b) let them know you’ll only be a moment and c) step in, shoot, and step out.
Move around: Part of concert photography etiquette 101 is giving everyone a chance to shoot from so-called prime spots and getting multiple angles. If you claim front and centre stage before a show starts, don’t stay there the whole set; stay in one spot for a few minutes at most, then let someone else in.
Seasoned concert audiences expect photographers to have access for the first three songs. After that, spread out and let them enjoy their show. Get some shots of the crowd from the edges, or some shots of the band with a sea of fans in the foreground.
The stage: It’s not the spot for your camera bag, your lunch, or your butt.
Onstage etiquette: If you’re granted onstage access, and you want some shots of the audience in front of the artists, please get up onto the side of the stage, get your shot, and get back down again. No loitering/walking up and down the stage, sitting on monitors, or going behind the drummer.
Exceptions: There’s a bit more freedom with DJ sets, while the crew is between shows. Just don’t distract the DJs and stay out of the crew’s way. And, when the audience is light during earlier shows, take that opportunity to get your stage bearings and find your ideal spots.
Issues: Should there be a conflict or grievance you wish to air, save it for the organizer(s) after the show. Getting into a shouting match with organizers/crew/security/another photographer while the show is on solves nothing.
Everyone’s respect will help the entire team kick ass. Whatever you’re shooting next, have a great show!